What are some common misunderstandings about learning

Communication and language

Communication as the basis of humanity. Verbal and non-verbal communication. Misunderstandings. Language learning. Language difficulties in children. Multilingualism and cultural integration.

Communication as the basis of humanity
People need other people to live. So that we can be in contact together and support one another, we share - we communicate. It is about a lot: information is exchanged, feelings are communicated, affection is shown and conflicts are revealed. We develop our identity through communication and receive feedback on our behavior. Communication creates a common space in which the attention of all those involved is concentrated - together, new things are created in symbolized form. Language is only a small part of the spectrum of how communication happens, albeit an important one.

Verbal and non-verbal communication
Even if verbal exchange - language - has an important place in interpersonal communication, it always consists of much more. In a conversation, we primarily pay attention not only to the words and sentences as such, but also to the pitch and volume or the speed and clarity with which people speak. We receive further basic additional information from facial expressions, gestures, posture, skin texture and smell of a person. We register all of this automatically and do not have to concentrate specifically on it. What is said is enriched with non-verbal information, relativized or even exposed as a lie. You also get crucial information about the emotional state of the other person. A child who realizes that his teacher is almost bursting with anger - she's red in the face, sweating, her gestures are jerky, her eyes narrowed, her chin thrust out, and her pronunciation loud and tight - can make better decisions about their subsequent behavior. Joke, irony and cynicism can only be properly understood with additional non-verbal information. A form of communication that is exclusively reduced to written words, such as "chatting" on the Internet, therefore remains incomplete, and basic information does not get through. Pictures, music and dance demonstrate that communication is also possible without words. For small children who cannot speak yet and for people who cannot or only insufficiently learn the language as a means of communication due to a disability, non-verbal communication plays a vital role. Sounds, gestures, sign language, expression via drawings and movements, feeling and showing replace linguistic gaps.

Not always enough is understood what the other person wants to say or express. Misunderstandings in communication are to be expected and problems can arise in different places: A person is not entirely clear about what he is trying to convey or expresses himself vaguely. Statements are misinterpreted or messages do not even reach their audience. Since communication takes place within relationships, it is crucial how those involved relate to one another. People who are in conflict with one another tend to misunderstand each other even with simple statements. Unfavorable behavior in the conversation situation (interrupting each other, reproaching) and strong negative feelings and prejudices (anger towards the other, having the feeling that the other is trying to harm) prevent mutual understanding. On the other hand, people who are turned to each other often grasp their situation without words. Since communication is a memory function, distortions arise at this level too, which lead to misunderstandings. The way in which someone registers, categorizes, stores or retrieves information in their memory and the background of experience with new messages have a decisive influence on the understanding of certain information.

Language learning
Children have a great interest in learning a language. Even as small infants, they notice that they need language in order to be sufficiently understood by adults. Most children begin to speak between the ages of one and one and a half years. First, they name people, animals, plants and objects with one word. This is followed by sentences of two words. Up to the age of four, many children speak fluently, even if not quite clearly and with a few mistakes. The development of the idea of ​​oneself and the environment as well as the learning of language are mutually dependent. In order to be able to name a tree and use the word in language, one needs an inner conception of it. As soon as the child has built up an idea of ​​the past and future, it can also refer to the "nonexistent". The question "Where is Anna?" builds on the certainty that Anna actually exists, even if she cannot be seen. This, in turn, makes it possible to maintain inner contact with Anna, even when she is absent. When learning languages, children need an appreciative and confident atmosphere. Disparaging remarks, laughing at you, constantly correcting or not reacting make it difficult to access the language. Driven by the desire to be in contact with the people around them, children succeed in learning a whole language system from the ground up purely through hearing and observation. The achievement is enormous and testifies to an incredible ability to learn and intelligence!

Language difficulties in children
While some children are chattering incessantly by the age of two, parents of other children of the same age are desperately waiting for their child to start talking. A late start to language doesn't always have to worry, because children can be very different. Nevertheless, it is advisable to seek professional advice if you have any doubts (pediatrician, advice for mothers and fathers). Sometimes difficulties in language acquisition go hand in hand with problems in perception, motor skills (movement) and playing. Children then appear bored, nervous, only pay attention to toys superficially or cannot handle them. Sometimes it is also social problems that cause children not to start speaking or to fall silent again later. A lot of arguments in the family, experiences of violence or drastic changes in the everyday life of a child can be reasons for this. Since children need access to language in order to stay in contact with the people around them and in turn to be able to take new developmental steps, language difficulties should also be taken seriously in small children. There are various therapies tailored to the child's specific difficulties. In addition to specific support, it is particularly important to (re) awaken the child's interest in and enjoyment of speaking and to dispel any fears that have arisen. Providing advice to adults at the same time can help ensure that important impulses are incorporated into dealing with the child. Sometimes very specific changes are necessary in the child's everyday life.

Multilingualism and cultural integration
Many more children grow up bilingual or multilingual than is generally assumed. Being able to express yourself in different languages ​​is an asset, as more diverse contacts and experiences are possible. 30 percent of the population in Switzerland has a migration background, and many immigrants speak a different mother tongue than the four national languages ​​of Switzerland. Albanian, Serbian, Croatian, Portuguese, Spanish, Turkish, English, Tamil and Thai are just a few of the languages ​​spoken in Switzerland, along with German, French, Italian and Romansh. Marriages between people with different language backgrounds are very common. All of this leads to the fact that many children grow up speaking several languages. A good command of a first language helps to learn the other languages ​​equally well. There are many features that are common to all languages ​​and that can therefore be carried over from one language to the next. Since language learning always has to do with the joy of contact and the desire to speak, it is important that parents speak to their children in the way that they feel most comfortable - usually this is their own mother tongue. Children can enjoy the language by talking to them a lot and in a positive attitude. The interest in what moves children and the exchange about it, as well as the discussion of everyday decisions motivates children to want to speak as well as possible. In whatever language - language and sound games, verses and songs enrich the linguistic exchange with children and also contribute a lot to language learning. The easiest way for children to learn the local language is to get involved with other children as early as possible, be it with neighbors, on the playground, in the playgroup or in a daycare center. Multilingual children often mix their languages ​​in conversation. This is not as problematic for language learning as is sometimes shown. Rather, you can see it as a creative and playful act that enriches communication. Different words can express different things - sometimes one language fits better, then the other. Literary works of art such as Emine Sevgi Özdamar's "Life is a caravanserai ..." impressively document this interplay. In order to ensure that children learn to express themselves well in each of their languages, one can make sure that they also get to know all languages ​​in their pure form from time to time.

further reading:
  • Diez & Simoni (2008). Summary of the scientific support for language support for children with a co-grate background and / or families with little educational background - Spielgruppeplus project. Zurich: MMI.
  • Parents letters. Zurich: Pro Juventute.
  • Largo, R. (2000). Childhood years. Munich: Piper.
  • Montanari, E. (2002). Growing up with two languages. Munich: Kösel.
  • Ozdamar, E.S. (1992). Life is a caravanserai ... Cologne: KiWi.
  • Zollinger, B. (Ed., 2000). When children don't discover the language. Bern: Main.